Gunter Senft

Publications

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10
  • Gerrits, F., Senft, G., & Wisse, D. (2018). Bomiyoyeva and bomduvadoya: Two rare structures on the Trobriand Islands exclusively reserved for Tabalu chiefs. Anthropos, 113, 93-113. doi:10.5771/0257-9774-2018-1-93.

    Abstract

    This article presents information about two so far undescribed buildings made by the Trobriand Islanders, the bomiyoyeva and the bomduvadova. These structures are connected to the highest-ranking chiefs living in Labai and Omarakana on Kiriwina Island. They highlight the power and eminence of these chiefs. After a brief report on the history of this project, the structure of the two houses, their function, and their use is described and information on their construction and their mythical background is provided. Finally, everyday as well as ritual, social, and political functions of both buildings are discussed. [Melanesia, Trobriand Islands, Tabalu chiefs, yams houses, bomiyoyeva, bomduvadova, authoritative capacities]

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  • Majid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P. and 6 moreMajid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P., Hill, C., Le Guen, O., Hirtzel, V., Van Gijn, R., Sicoli, M. A., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(45), 11369-11376. doi:10.1073/pnas.1720419115.

    Abstract

    Is there a universal hierarchy of the senses, such that some senses (e.g., vision) are more accessible to consciousness and linguistic description than others (e.g., smell)? The long-standing presumption in Western thought has been that vision and audition are more objective than the other senses, serving as the basis of knowledge and understanding, whereas touch, taste, and smell are crude and of little value. This predicts that humans ought to be better at communicating about sight and hearing than the other senses, and decades of work based on English and related languages certainly suggests this is true. However, how well does this reflect the diversity of languages and communities worldwide? To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of the senses, stimuli from the five basic senses were used to elicit descriptions in 20 diverse languages, including 3 unrelated sign languages. We found that languages differ fundamentally in which sensory domains they linguistically code systematically, and how they do so. The tendency for better coding in some domains can be explained in part by cultural preoccupations. Although languages seem free to elaborate specific sensory domains, some general tendencies emerge: for example, with some exceptions, smell is poorly coded. The surprise is that, despite the gradual phylogenetic accumulation of the senses, and the imbalances in the neural tissue dedicated to them, no single hierarchy of the senses imposes itself upon language.
  • Senft, G. (2018). Pragmatics and anthropology - The Trobriand Islanders' Ways of Speaking. In C. Ilie, & N. Norrick (Eds.), Pragmatics and its Interfaces (pp. 185-211). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Bronislaw Malinowski – based on his experience during his field research on the Trobriand Islands – pointed out that language is first and foremost a tool for creating social bonds. It is a mode of behavior and the meaning of an utterance is constituted by its pragmatic function. Malinowski’s ideas finally led to the formation of the subdiscipline “anthropological linguistics”. This paper presents three observations of the Trobrianders’ attitude to their language Kilivila and their language use in social interactions. They illustrate that whoever wants to successfully research the role of language, culture and cognition in social interaction must be on ‘common ground’ with the researched community.
  • Senft, G. (2018). Theory meets Practice - H. Paul Grice's Maxims of Quality and Manner and the Trobriand Islanders' Language Use. In A. Capone, M. Carapezza, & F. Lo Piparo (Eds.), Further Advances in Pragmatics and Philosophy Part 1: From Theory to Practice (pp. 203-220). Cham: Springer.

    Abstract

    As I have already pointed out elsewhere (Senft 2008; 2010; 2014), the Gricean conversational maxims of Quality – “Try to make your contribution one that is true” – and Manner “Be perspicuous”, specifically “Avoid obscurity of expression” and “Avoid ambiguity” (Grice 1967; 1975; 1978) – are not observed by the Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea, neither in forms of their ritualized communication nor in forms and ways of everyday conversation and other ordinary verbal interactions. The speakers of the Austronesian language Kilivila metalinguistically differentiate eight specific non-diatopical registers which I have called “situational-intentional” varieties. One of these varieties is called “biga sopa”. This label can be glossed as “joking or lying speech, indirect speech, speech which is not vouched for”. The biga sopa constitutes the default register of Trobriand discourse and conversation. This contribution to the workshop on philosophy and pragmatics presents the Trobriand Islanders’ indigenous typology of non-diatopical registers, especially elaborating on the concept of sopa, describing its features, discussing its functions and illustrating its use within Trobriand society. It will be shown that the Gricean maxims of quality and manner are irrelevant for and thus not observed by the speakers of Kilivila. On the basis of the presented findings the Gricean maxims and especially Grice’s claim that his theory of conversational implicature is “universal in application” is critically discussed from a general anthropological-linguistic point of view.
  • Senft, G. (2016). "Masawa - bogeokwa si tuta!": Cultural and cognitive implications of the Trobriand Islanders' gradual loss of their knowledge of how to make a masawa canoe. In P. Meusburger, T. Freytag, & L. Suarsana (Eds.), Ethnic and Cultural Dimensions of Knowledge (pp. 229-256). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.

    Abstract

    This paper describes how the Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea used to construct their big seagoing masawa canoes and how they used to make their sails, what forms of different knowledge and expertise they needed to do this during various stages of the construction processes, how this knowledge was socially distributed, and the social implications of all the joint communal activities that were necessary until a new canoe could be launched. Then it tries to answer the question why the complex distributed knowledge of how to make a masawa has been gradually getting lost in most of the village communities on the Trobriand Islands; and finally it outlines and discusses the implications of this loss for the Trobriand Islanders' culture, for their social construction of reality, and for their indigenous cognitive capacities.
  • Senft, G. (2016). Pragmatics. In K. B. Jensen, R. T. Craig, J. Pooley, & E. Rothenbuhler (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy (pp. 1586-1598). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley. doi:10.1002/9781118766804.wbiect165.

    Abstract

    This entry takes an interdisciplinary approach to linguistic pragmatics. It discusses how the meaning of utterances can only be understood in relation to overall cultural, social, and interpersonal contexts, as well as to culture-specific conventions and the speech events in which they are embedded. The entry discusses core issues of pragmatics such as speech act theory, conversational implicature, deixis, gesture, interaction strategies, ritual communication, phatic communion, linguistic relativity, ethnography of speaking, ethnomethodology, and conversation analysis. It takes a transdisciplinary view of the field, showing that linguistic pragmatics has its predecessors in other disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, ethology, ethnology, and sociology.
  • Broeder, D., Brugman, H., & Senft, G. (2005). Documentation of languages and archiving of language data at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. Linguistische Berichte, no. 201, 89-103.
  • Senft, G. (2005). [Review of the book Malinowski: Odyssey of an anthropologist 1884-1920 by Michael Young]. Oceania, 75(3), 302-302.
  • Senft, G. (2005). [Review of the book The art of Kula by Shirley F. Campbell]. Anthropos, 100, 247-249.
  • Senft, G. (2005). Bronislaw Malinowski and linguistic pragmatics. In P. Cap (Ed.), Pragmatics today (pp. 139-155). Frankfurt am Main: Lang.

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